Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Unusual Christmas of 2011

This Christmas sure was different from any Christmas we had celebrated before.  Especially because we hardly had any furniture left in our living room.  You might say to company making the holiday rounds, "Please, pull up a box and join us."  But then you'd notice the "BREAKABLE" warning on the side.

Living in a large metro area, the biggest objective for me regarding the last three weeks of the year is simple.  AVOID CROWDS!  At.  All.  Costs.  Sadly, the perishables won't keep two weeks before Christmas, so instead i try shopping for all my Christmas baking needs the week before Christmas and my Christmas dinner and the week after needs about 5 days before Christmas.  This is when i miss living in Spokane the most!!

All our packing nonsense was just sheer and total distraction from our usually scheduled holiday cheer, however we didn't experience many flops in certain things i usually struggle with around this time of year.  Here is my note to self...little improvement needed next year, but with a lot less "cardboard decor" around the house.  May in reading these ramblings, you'll find inspiration to make your holiday operation run a little smoother too.


1.  Christmas gifts:  we kept it extremely simple this year with family.  Only the kids received gift cards for the bookstore.  And i bought these in November, instead of waiting for the week before Christmas!  I'm getting smarter with age. :)  Next year, we would like to give gifts of homemade preserves from our farm to family.  No arguments here!  That means a portion of the year's Christmas shopping will be done by July!  Hooray!

2.  Christmas baking:  i used the KISS method this year.  We made the traditional manacotti--two 15oz containers of ricotta in the recipe yielded 3 batches of manacotti filling!  Meaning Christmas Eve dinner was taken care of not only for our neighbour, but for us as well.  And with one batch in the freezer for New Years!  Baking them off on Christmas Eve morning proved fortuitous.  After Mass that night, we were able to invite a dear one to our house to share comfort food and the Mickey Roonie Santa shows.  Is there anything better than spending your time visiting with guests while the meal is only needing a reheat?  Lookin' like such a rock star makes me one happy momma!!

Following the KISS method also meant only one new cookie recipe was introduced this year.  We baked the usual Pepparkakor (gingerbread), Lime Meltaways from Martha Stewart's Cookie Book, and banana bread.  And truly, we didn't even need the banana bread.

What i liked about this was the simplicity in them.  Yet still very kid friendly!  Also to note is that these cookie doughs can be made ahead and frozen till you need them.  Ahhhh, hear that?!?  Next year is getting simpler already!

3.  Double a Dinner:  just before the week of Christmas, i made a double batch of Ina Garten's Chicken Stew with Biscuits.  Not intentionally, mind you.  Still getting used to my butter coming in half pound increments. :)  I only doubled the stew part though, leaving out the chicken and biscuits in the 2nd batch.  It kept beautifully in an air tight bowl in the back of the fridge for a week and 1/2.  The first batch sustained us for a few lunches and dinners, alternating with homemade spaghetti sauce and mac n cheese.  Just as we were starting to tire of these offerings, it was time for Christmas dinner.  And now, as the New Year approaches, we have another dinner taken care of.  Once i roast a chicken and make some biscuits. :)

4.  Heavy Handed Use of KISS for Christmas Day:  Didn't i just plan and cook a Thanksgiving feast just a month ago?  Although it was fun, i was already in the kitchen enough the week prior to Christmas making cookies.  Plus i got a wonderful new cookbook for Christmas to consume before the day was over!!  So, for breakfast, it was a coffee cake, cold cereal, and fruit.  For noontime snack, our fridge was a honey hole of leftovers.  And for the feast, we ate ham, steak, mashed potatoes, and broccoli casserole at 2pm.  Dessert?  You guessed it--cookies! :)  When dinnertime came around, none of us were hungry.  As the evening went on, we snacked on popcorn. 

One thing that i relied more on this year was frozen foods.  We purchase all our meat from a local organic butcher who freezes all his cuts.  Our food co-op has handy 5lb packs of broccoli, corn, peas.  Focusing on the use of these next year into healthier meals, combined with our new gardening practices, may just be the ticket to not having to hit a grocery the whole month of December!!  Well, a girl can dream, right?

I would say the only thing missing is simpler lunches this time of year.  We need a huge bowl of fresh veggies, salad, or sauerkraut in the fridge!  All these rich, gratuitous meals are wearing on our digestive tracts.

Also good to note:  this isn't the time to chow down at your favourite mexican food restaurant in town, unless you stick to the taco salad!! :)
Hoping you have a wonderful New Year's celebration!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Givin' a Whole New Meaning to December 26th

Who says we don't celebrate Boxing Day in the USA?  :)

The good thing about packing your bathroom before a surgery scheduled just before you move...
you'll find all those boxes of gauze and paper tape that you may have purchased with last year's flex benefits, saving you from having to get more!!  Bonus:  post-surgery will require their use, so they won't be taking up valuable space in your new *small* house. :)

Good guys win!

Now :: boxing the kitchen.  Is there anything merrier?
Merry Christmas!!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

If It Ain't One Thing...

Hello Friends,

Being the end of the year, it's doctor appointment time, eh?  All of us have busy schedules already, but when something comes up at a well check, it just makes this time of the year exponentially more stressful.  Do you know what i mean?

Well, we feel that way here at our house anyway.  A routine skin check has lead to the discovery of a spot of melanoma on my body.  It is as good as cancer news can be and will be taken care of with a little outpatient surgery, THANKS BE TO GOD!!  Unfortunately, the surgery is slated to occur 3 days prior to our move...ei yi ei yi ei!

I am trying my best not to be petulant about that little inconvenient fact, especially when i start feeling down or sullen; i am trying to remember to pray for those who may not have the access to health care to receive such good news .  Our country really is antiquated and unfair when it comes to such things.

Please remember to get those annual check ups!  And if you are fortunate enough to have health care insurance and a little extra pocket change to boot, please consider giving to your community resources that make annual check ups available to our brothers and sisters in our areas who are without medical insurance!!

Such seriousness also needs balance.  Wanting to share with you one of the coolest little blessings from our busy schedule:  Cookie Monster's dance school put on a holiday feis yesterday as their Christmas party.  You'll never believe what the trophies looked like.



Congratulations, Cookie Monster!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

This Could Be All Mine and Moose's


Well, the Moose in the pic is already mine... :)
Financing gods, don't fail us now. :)
The inspection is complete--no red flags.
Whew!
Not to shabby for an early 20th century home!

The first sunny day we've been out at the property, and we do have a little
sneak "peak" of Mt. Rainier.



This is the view closer to town. 
Red barn peeking out of the trees.
Fenced pastures.
Beautiful farms at every turn.
Friendly people.
Gotta love this place!!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like We're Moving...

Hello.  How are you?

How was your Thanksgiving?  Hoping your turkey was delicious and your gravy was lump-free!

For the first time in almost 11 years of marriage, i cooked Thanksgiving dinner.  Turkey, mash, gravy, brussel sprouts with bacon and chestnuts in maple syrup, stuffing, cheese bread, and pumpkin pie.  Whew!  It was very enjoyable--especially because we got to stay in our scruffies all day and change just before sitting down to eat our meal.  And i didn't poison anyone. :)

This past month we've been living in anticipation of moving and out of boxes and the chaos is starting to really wear on us, however it looks like there is a light at the end of the tunnel that isn't an oncoming freight train. 

I'll let you know more when we are for sure of the details, but for right now, i like to think of the day when we hopefully live in the sweet little community of farmers in a city nestled in the foothills of this mountain in the picture. 

I keep praying that everything works together this time!

So, i'm gonna say that until next year, this little hapless blog may be even more neglected that it already is.  As soon as i can, i'll be back to resuscitate it and show you all the changes that we hope will be going on around here.  You'll love it.  I promise!

And most importantly, i want to wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a blessed Christmas!  Hoping your preparations go smoothly and your time with family and friends is plentiful and enjoyable!

Merry Christmas!
Fondly,
Whit

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Halloween Decorations

With Cookie's feis the weekend before Halloween, we were a little late in getting our outdoor decorations out for the trick or treaters.  That and packing up a 2700 sq ft house doesn't really afford a lot of time for arts and crafts, either. 

When we returned home on Sunday the 30th, we made a plan of attack so that we could have a fun day of Halloween arts and crafts.

First we hit the store, looking for a pumpkin.  Would you believe they were all sold out?!?!?  So, Plan B became hulling out an overgrown zucchini from our garden which Cookie named Gina.


Next, we were looking to find orange balloons from the one-stop shop to make the ol' Martha glow-in- the-dark faces with glow sticks.  Neery a orange balloon in site, we found white balloons to make ghosts and orange paper plates to make pumpkin faces.

Mr. Pumpkin Ghost and the Cowardly Lion

Another ghost and a pirate pumpkin

Skeleton

Wicked witch
Another craft we had on hand was spurred on by a chemistry experiment entitled Do Molecules Really Disappear? in which we had to see if flour would dissolve in water like sugar does.  With all that paste left over from the experiment, it seemed like a shame to throw it out.  So we covered a balloon with paper mache and it languish on our piano for a couple weeks till we figured out a use for it.

With a little black paint, some construction, and yarn to hang him out our window above our walkup to assist, we'd like to introduce you to:  Batty!


Last but not least was Cookie's phenomenial crown she designed.  Moose helped with the construction of the base of the crown, and Cookie designed the rest using glow-in-the-dark stars and other embellishments we had on hand.


 


Does that look like a hip Glenda the Good Witch crown, or what?!?!?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Busy Weekend

Amongst the packing and cleaning schedule, we had a trip to Vancouver, WA for a feis.  Needless to say, we hit the road just in time to dance, then rush home (after one little impromptu side trip.)
Here are some pictures from the weekend...

1st Place Single Jig!!

St. John's Vancouver
We're movin' on up..to Prizewinner!!


The Mashtun Pub -- NE Portland


Salt & Straw Ice Cream....NE Portland

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like....

we're moving?!? 

I certainly hope so! 

I don't want to say too much about it, because i don't want to be a Debbie Downer about the place we are hoping to leaving (especially if it means we're staying--ha!)  Also not wanting to let myself gush about where we are heading, because the fall will be that much farther if we lose the opportunity again, this time around.

We are busy packing and moving boxes, readying rooms for strangers to walk through (has anyone put their houses on the market lately?  is it just me that isn't thrilled with all the nonsense that has to be done for strangers so that they can "imagine" themselves here?  really?  really?!?!  i'm responsible to pay $,$$$ for someone to come in my home to have a daydream?!?  what?!?!  thanks a-helpin' n a-heapin' you HGTV people!  i disgress.  ahem  sorry about that.)  :)

anywho, with all the activity that comes with moving, and with the currently packed calendar, my little journal here is going to have to take a seat even further back in the bus, behind school yet just in front of sanity and crafting.  Now some say it's a short bus.  :)  Ah, but is it because i choose to drive one or....?  :)

Also, is it wrong to call packing and organising boxes "homeschool"?  Well, you know, those college years are about 9 years away...Cookie's gotta learn to pack up and fly from the nest someday. :)  Proving once again that "Homeschool is Life-school", eh?

Oh, incidently, a tip for those out there with children who are "hating math" all of the sudden when they hit double digit multiplication.  Take them to the candy aisle. :)  My dear Cookie wants nothing more that to 1. Stop doing math and 2. Hand out Hallowe'en candy.  And sadly, Toots, those two things don't jive.  So while including her in the candy shopping for this year, she discovered that some packages didn't say how many items were inside.  Oh no!  How would we know how many trick or treaters we could hop up on sugar?  A quick check of the "nutrition (ha!) label" gives you information that you need to calculate the quantity--that job, of course, going to your little goblin.  Real life math in action!  As you see the light bulb start to flicker above your child's head and the gears in there start causing their little eyes to roll back and forth across their their face, their math hardened heart will start swelling.  It does come with a warning though:  don't give the completely uncool "See, I Told You You'd Need Math in Real Life" speech, because that's the killer.  Just trust me on that one. :) 

Most of all, wanting to wish you all a wonderful end to October and a safe Hallowe'en.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears....Oh My!

It's birthday time here in our household (which unfortunately coincides with house-hunting efforts without fail for the past 4 years.  Wish us luck this time around, eh?  For sanity's sake!) 

I don't know if you know this or not, but this  Nine Year Old stuff is serious business.  Cookie is growing up, there's no denying that, but outside of the public school system, i never figured she'd be so opinionated or hip as to what "cool" was.


We toss around the idea of a penny carnival for her party.  I had high hopes (especially because that is an all-sexes event, you know?)  However, in the end, it boiled down to one thing:  Cookie wanted to have a tea with her girlie friends.  Sorry Best Friend Who's A Boy. :) 

Meaning, we will need to host two shindigs--one for the best friend who's like a brother and one for the girlies.  :)  Who wouldn't love their birthday drawn out this way, eh?  Even though it's not my first preference to have two gatherings, at least it provided me a belly laugh when i was able to joke with Mr. Best Friend and say, "Hey, guess what?  We figured out what we're going to do for Cookie's party and i think you are going to have the most fun!!"  When he heard what was in store, i believe i saw him turn green a little--and it wasn't the shade of envy, either. :)

In the days that followed, i gave Cookie some gentle direction into what would make a fun tea.  We devised menus and baking ideas.  We could have the girls make popovers or something to contribute to the feast.  Rest of the time they could play games or....  So what Cookie cooked up on her own was wildly interesting, to say the least.  One day, she mentioned she'd like to have a Wizard of Oz tea.  Well, that would proved direction for the theme, so off we went to the craft store to find papers (Graphics 45 makes a series) and stamps to craft invitations.

A couple days later she says, "Wouldn't a spa tea be fun Mom?"  "Well, sure, who wouldn't love a spa tea, hon, but how does that fit with the Wizard of Oz?"  "Maaaaaaahhhhhom?!?!?  You know that part in the movie where they get all spiffed up to see Oz?  That's how!" 

And so was born thee "Wizard of Oz Spa Tea" Birthday Party.

First.....Invites.
Party Invites for the Girls
We found this wonderful piece of paper from Graphics 45 with these four images contained on it.  On the reverse is a repeating pattern of ruby slippers--perfect for little girlies!  Conveniently, we need four invitations only, so we split the page accordingly.

We found an old map of Kansas on the Internets on one of their state government archives sites and after a little manipulating in a art program on our computer, we came up with this for the back of the cards.

The dimensions of the cards turned out to fit a 6 1/2" x 6 1/2" envelope. 
With the stuffin' done, it was time to decorate the envelopes.

Our stamps consisted of the four majour Wiz of Oz characters and Toto and some sayings.

These ruby slippers and the "Yellow Brick Road" were included.

Here we were able to experiment with our "graphic art" lesson, and we found out which part of the stamps to ink so that when we stamped the red shoes on top, they wouldn't be orange. :)  We stamped them on the front corner of the envelope.

On the back of the card, Cookie played with the arrangement of characters until they fit just right.
Then she stamped it all and a saying up at the top that reads "The Magic of Oz".


I found this beauty supply house called MMS online, ordered materials for making lip balms, scented bath salts, and we will be making sugar scrubs too.  We decided to use plain ol' canning jars for our containers for the salts and scrub.

In the coming days, we'll be stamping tags and bags and making labels for our friends.
 
And what i love most about all this is we get to call it homeschool!!  :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Kind of Homeschooling :: Knights of Veritas

We were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time a little while back.  Figuratively AND literally.  Cookie's stuck in history, reveling in knights and damsels and castles.  Coincidentally, a local bookstore, where you can purchased used books by the pound no less, was celebrating the Hobbit movie announcement with a "Tolkein Tea".  They hired a group, The Knights of Veritas, from Moses Lake, WA to come for a demonstration. 

The Knights presentation really debunks the myths of sword fighting and medieval armour that Hollywood has engrained in our minds.  The presenters taught us not only the words for the 4 different attack stances, but also took us through the geometry of a real sword fight.  Basically, you always want your defense to end with your sword's point threatening your rival...and they taught us which movements would get us a victory through slow-motion sword fighting by letting the audience tell them their next move should be.  Then once we worked it all out, the sword fight would commence in real time. :)


video

video

Below is my favourite fight of the day.  The one that wasn't deconstructed, so we had no idea what was going to happen!

video

We were able to see what it takes for these gentlemen to dress in their armour piece by piece; we even got to touch real mail.  The mail was amazing--interwoven chains that were riveted together.  During the demostration, once they had both put on their mail, one of the men took his sword and started beating the edge of it against the chest and back of the other man without wounding him.  Completely amazing!

 

Piece by piece,

an armoured knight

was assembled in front of our eyes.

Then they got down to business. :)

It was a wonderful, informative, and enjoyable presentation.  Cookie gave it a 10 out of 10 rating, whether she gave it that because she got to hold a sword after the presentation, i am not sure. :)

Hoping you will someday get to see the Knights of "Truth" in your area!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Last Garden Look-see?


Fall is here.
But i don't have to be all in love with that fact, do i?

It is a glorious season, i'll give it that.
A favourite of mine.
That is, when we have a proper summer. :)

Here about 50% of the summer garden has been put to bed.
We are still waiting on the corn to ripen.

 This year, we experimented with short season corn.  It grew to 2-3 feet and sprouted tassels.
Funny little things, yet very efficient.  We didn't even plant them until the 4th of July.
Next year, i will try succession planting them in little blocks and hope we have a longer corn season.

I do miss the 6 foot tall varieties, so maybe when we get a little more space, we can grow that just for fun and fall decorating. :)

Another thing i was very surprised to find in the garden was a musk melon the size of a golf ball.
We planted these in June, which might have been a little too long to wait.
Really need a greenhouse structure in my future. :)


We did have luck growing one small pumpkin this year. 



And although our roma toms didn't produce too well this year, we did end up with a ton of cherry toms.  I cleaned about 10 bunches this weekend from one vine.  That's not including the ones we robbed during the season of dining outdoors. :)


While cleaning out the squash and toms this weekend, i noticed there are arrent little pea vines popping up here and there.  I was inspired to try a little experimenting.  I planted a few rows of dwarf snap peas and used some of the seed tapes Cookie and i made for next Spring (we are getting organised now, as we areever hopefully of a relocation this winter!)  Included in the seed tapes are Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, Samish Savoy winter hardy spinach, French Breakfast radishes, and a little Big Seeded Mache.  We haven't tried mache before, so we will see how it goes. 

I've planted these things in the bed where the potatoes were.  It will be interesting to see if things sprout as well this time of year as they would in our March.  Should anything sprout, i've divided them into groups so that we can erect cold frames around them.  As we pull the corn out of the ground, the chickens will be parked over this area of the garden more and more, helping us make the space a little more fruitful next year.

Hoping your Fall gardening is going well and less soggy than sunny.



Friday, September 30, 2011

Enjoying the Fruits of Summer

We are in love with a simple new to us way of enjoying fruit.
I can't wait to try it with apples!!

The best part is, it's like eating pie, without having to flute a crust (still working on that, wondering if i'll ever be able to make a new looking fluted crust in my lifetime) or pre bake your pie dough.

In France, they call them galettes, but i call them tarts.
Make your favourite pie dough.
Roll it out on a sheet of parchment.
Move parchment to a baking sheet and sprinkle a small amount of your favourite cookie or cake crumbs on the dough, leaving about 2 - 3 inch border from the edge.

 We make orange nutmeg shortbread from Grand Central Bakery's cookbook for our galettes, simply because we like having those around too. :)

Next, mix up some pie filling with fresh fruits--shorting the sugar if you like and
adding your favourite spices.
Here we used cinnamon, sugar, a little clove, and nectarines and peaches.
Arrange the fruit over your crumbs on your pie crust.


 Fold the edges of your crust up over the fruit, leaving a small uncovered area about the size of a tea cup saucer.

Bake as you would a pie...


Ain't it peachy?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gig Harbor: Wilkinson Farm City Park

 Under a five minute drive from downtown Gig, between the residential areas and Hwy 16, located on the Cushman Bike Trail, is the Wilkinson Farm City Park.  Today, 17 acres, of the original purchase by this pioneer family, have been dedicated to open space by the city of Gig Harbor.  On the grounds, along the trails through the woods, you will find an original barn (erected 1914) and a few out buildings.


a holly grove


There are also beautiful green lawns surrounded by apple trees to have a picnic on.
What a beautiful place for an old dairy farm!





Historical signage

The best feature of the property was the community gardens on site!
Gig Harbor has many talented gardeners out there!




Love this sign!

What a great idea for plant markers in a maritime community garden!


Tomorrow, i'll show you a few more sites around town.